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The indigenous people of the Amazon rainforest are deeply connected to the ancestral land they’ve lived on for centuries. Their history is as deep and vast as the forest itself.

Thriving for centuries in this complex and beautiful ecosystem, these people have an intimate knowledge of their home and the natural world. The trees, the fish, the plants, and the rivers are all part of each individual who resides there. In a place where it is said that each tree was planted by an ancestor, inhabitants are constantly reminded of their origin and role in the world.

But their history and harmonious way of living is being threatened by the possibility of oil drilling and development. In her poem, “The Amazon Is Not For Sale,” L.E. Goldstein speaks of things that may be lost if the Amazon continues to be destroyed for greed and profit.

The Amazon Is Not for Sale

by L.E. Goldstein

“A civilization flourishes when old men plant trees underneath whose shade they shall never sit.”—Greek Proverb

They say that in Lancaster there are four trees
descended from the trees of Johnny Appleseed.
The press shoots brazen smiles and plaques beam
in the Massachusetts sun. This is what we’re told
is ancestry. But a woman in the Amazon sings of generations
floating down the Napo. She knows more of the Earth’s story,
which began when the world did, and will be re-sung, again,
continuously. They say that in the Amazon
each tree was planted by an ancestor, branched and spread
throughout time. But soon construction trucks will tear from the river
to these trees, where the children hang their clothes to dry, then climb
to the tallest branch for the largest pacays to eat in the shade
along the rocks—what will happen to these children—
when there’s no clean water for boiling guayusa before the sun breaks
behind the mountain, where Illuku cries at night from the papaya tree
above the scutter of leaf-cutter ants, where the silent tarantula
watches the dancing mantis on the head of a python among the yuca,
the banana trees, where the young boy plucks cinnamon leaves from the legacy
his great great great grandfather left, to make stomach-soothing tea.
And what will happen to the river—
when the Company that sends tin roof pieces in exchange for seismic testing
will one day drill for oil, where the children now fish for carachama
that they gut and boil for stew for their parents and siblings
as they come from the garden, or where the little girl calls for her sister to watch
as she cartwheels then jumps from rock to river, the mother that flows through her blood to the roots of the trees and the veins of the Earth where we’re writing
the greatest of tragedies.

Photo credit: CIFOR